China permits less death penalty

08:33, May 25, 2011      

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China's highest court has decided to give leniency to convicted men and women by reducing the number of executions from this year, said the annual work report of the Supreme People's Court in Beijing.

The criminal convicts who the courts feel do not merit immediate execution are suggested to be given a sentence of death with two years' reprieve. In normal law practice, these types of offenders are ultimately commuted to lifetime imprisonment after two years.

The highest court is expected to introduce a unified guideline over the use of the capital punishment in China soon.

The court has also removed 13 offenses from the list of 68 crimes punishable by death earlier this year.

At present, a majority of immediate executions are imposed for the most serious criminal offences of either aggravated murder or large scale drug trafficking.

The court report also vowed the prudent adoption of the death penalty for cases involving serious violence triggered by civil disputes, especially when defendants were forgiven by their victims.

However, it was not clear whether the new criminal law interpretation would affect the fate of a peddler in the northeastern city of Shenyang.

Xia Junfeng had his death penalty upheld by an appeal court on May 9, and the sentence is awaiting final approval by the supreme court.

Xia stabbed two urban management officials to death, when they attempted to stop him carrying out his business operation two years ago.

China has been reforming its death penalty system since an amendment to the Criminal Procedure Law in 2007 made the Supreme People's Court the only authority in the country to have final approval of all death sentences.

The supreme court overturned about 15 percent of death sentences handed down in the first half of 2008.

China has also removed 13 offenses from the list of 68 crimes punishable by death earlier this year. The offenses were all economic crimes. They included tax fraud, the smuggling of cultural relics or precious metals, tomb robbing and stealing fossils.

Revisions of the country's criminal code also ban the use of capital punishment for aged offenders over the age of 75.

People's Daily Online / Shanghai Daily
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